Dreamwave Comics "Micromasters" #3

in 2004, Comic Book Review, Generation One

Dreamwave Comics

General Information:
Title: Recipe for Hate
Cover Price: $2.95
Publisher: Dreamwave Productions
Written by: James "Brad Mick" McDonough & Adam Patyk
Pencils by: Rob Ruffolo
Inks by: Erik Sander
Colors by: Sig Torres, Eric Burns, Josh Perez and Josh Burcham
Letters by: Ben Lee

Micromasters #3 Cover
Synopsis:
Decepticon HQ:
Skystalker and Skyhopper have arrived, and Shockwave is there to greet them. The update each other on the situation at hand. While Shockwave is aware of Countdown's arrival on Cybertron, he explains the Autobot has managed to cloak himself. To draw him out, he has set up the Hot Rod Patrol so Countdown gains an interest in them, thus drawing him out. Skystalker is more concerned about an artifact, but Shockwave asks him to have patience.

Little Iacon:
The Micromasters are having their usual little arguments, but suddenly Venom and his gang attack again! This time however, their assault is focused. They want the Hot Rod Patrol, and make sure not to arm any of the other Micromasters. The Micros try to fight back, but the four Decepticons are too powerful and it seems that someone betrayed the Micromasters. Someone still wearing a Decepticon badge.

Countdown HQ:
Countdown has set things up so that all the audio/video feeds go into him at one time, allowing him to monitor the situation in various parts of Cybertron. Groundshaker is eager to rescue the Micromasters, but Countdown tells him no. Frustrated, he argues with Countdown, telling him that his opinon should matter since he supported him when no one else would. He agrees, and finally decides to disclose what he found on Paradron. The artifact that Skystalker is so interested in is in fact a Golden Disk filled with information seemingly beamed from Cybertron. Though the two worlds never had contact, somehow the beings there were very similar to those on Cybertron. Countdown also points to the evolutions of Transformer forms as a sign that there is a destiny for the race beyond the Autobot/Decepticon war. But he also points out that such a disk cannot fall into the wrong hands!

Little Iacon:
Venom tells the Micromasters that they are only interested in the Hot Rod patrol. He is willing to spare the others if they give him up. Blaze Master refuses to do so, but is quickly blasted by Barrage for his rebellion. One Micromaster does agree however - Barricade!

Decepticon HQ:
Skystalker and Skyhopper are in their quarters. But instead of relaxing, they are preparing for a new campaign of conquest, on Cybertron! As the wire up explosives, they discuss their mutual disdain for Shockwave, and it is extreme.

Outside Autobase:
The Hot Rod patrol has returned, proverbial hats in hand, to rejoin the Autobots. The Battle Patrol is not playing nice however. They laugh at their misfortune and tell them that they do not have the right access codes to enter. The Hot Rod Patrol is shocked, but they do have one friend. Stakeout manages to sneak out weapons for each of them so at the very least, they can defend themselves.

En Route to Deception HQ:
The Micromasters are being led to the Decepticon base by Venom's team. On the way, Barricade makes Motorhead realize that he is not necesarily choosing the
Decepticons over anyone. He is trying to keep him and his team alive. The young Motorhead is relieved.

Inside Decepticon HQ:
Shockwave is examining Blitzwing, whose body has begun mutating. In a process similar to self repair, Blitzwing has begun to change into something more powerful. He mentions that Astrotrain is undergoing the same process. When Blitzwing's exam is done, Shockwave asks him to guard his personal recharge chamber while he refuels. Suddenly, the wall explodes and sends the two flying! It's Skystalker and Skyhopper, ready to take over. Skyhopper dispatches with Blitzwing, and the underpowered Shockwave is no match for Skystalker.

Elsewhere in the base, Ramjet, Thrust and Dirge are busy preparing equipment for a battle. Barricade and his team see this and wonder what is going on. That is until they are told to report to Shockwave - but it really turns out to be Skystalker and Skyhopper ready to give orders!

To Be Continued...

Review:

Story:
As I read this issue, I finally felt like "Okay, here we go, now we're getting somewhere." Tieing in the infamous "Golden Disk" (or "a" Golden Disk) into the storyline is interesting, as many once speculated that the sized down Transformers known as Micromasters may have had something to do with the Disks, and the eventual evolution into smaller forms called Maximals and Predacons. They may not since in later G1 series, Micromasters are not really around, but it's interesting to see that link there.

It's also cool to see that Shockwave has been manipulating things behind the scenes all along. Though he admits to not being able to find Countdown, he initiates a scheme to draw him out, and that is the Shockwave we know and love to hate. Skystalker is a real schemer too, and Skyhopper's loyalty to him is rather refreshing. He may be a backstabber, but Skystalker doesn't have backstabbers working for him.

We also get a bit more characterization for Countdown and Groundshaker. I found it an interesting contrast that the Decepticon "Commander/Lieutenant" relationship is rather smooth while the Autobot one is strained with conflict. That's a nice switch from what one would normally expect.

Perhaps the scene that amused me the most was between Barrage and Chop Shop as the Barrage asks the thief where his weapon is. Meanwhile, Chop Shop has it behind his back the whole time. A perfect character moment.

There are, unfortunately, a couple of things that don't quite make sense in this issue. The first is Shockwave's defeat at the hands of Skystalker.
The question is not how he was beaten. Obviously he was so low on power he could not even fire his weapon. Skystalker was most likely fully fueled and ready to fight. What I do question is why Shockwave would let himself get to that point. He mentions to Blitzwing that he does not trust Skystalker, so a) Why let yourself get so drained of power to begin with and b) Why not have one other non-ill Transformer guard you? From the looks of things, Blitzwing was not in the best condition anyhow and would have made for a lousy guard. I found this really odd.

The other oddity has to do with Blitzwing, and not the Micromasters themselves. Here, we learn that Blitzwing and Astrotrain (but oddly, not Octane) have been mutating, some mass form of self repair that is actually reshaping him. Now obviously this points to something regarding his modes. At first I thought it had something to do with his triple changing, but in "War Within", Blitzwing was already an "experiment", presumably in triple changing technology. Now let's say that he didn't triple change until now (just for the sake of argument), then the changes would have to be about him gaining Earth Modes. The problem is, in "War and Peace", we learned that Shockwave specifically gave the Transformers under his command Earth modes to prepare for the Earth mission. So really - what was the point? I think Dreamwave needs to construct a timeline of events for all the writers to follow, which would help either avoid confusion like this or at least offer explanations.

Another thing which struck me as wrong was the battle scene where Venom's team gets the jump on the Micromasters. Frankly, they shouldn't have won so easily. You have four "guzzlers" versus an estimated twelve Micromasters. But all the Micromasters do is run around shooting little guns. No special abilities, no teamwork (one of the crucial aspects of the Micromaster tech specs). Compare this with the use of Micromasters in the original Marvel comic over ten years ago. Back then, you had one team (the Off-Road Patrol) take on a Decepticon Pretender. How did they do it? They didn't just shoot
tiny guns at the enemy. Mudslinger used his wheels to burn the guy's leg, then another set up a wire to trip the Decepticon and, as I recall, Powertrain used his smokestack to generate smoke as a distraction. Through unique abilities and teamwork, four Micros brought down one bad guy (they didn't mortally wound him, but it was still a victory). Now I understand that the Decepticons needed to win this battle to advance the story, and that's fine. But it really would have been good to see the Micros put up much more of a valiant struggle. This feels a lot like a missed opportunity.

Artwork:

If you've read my previous reviews of Micromasters href="/comicbooks/dreamwave/mm1/">#1 and #2, you'll know that I have not been particularly fond of the art in the series so far. Unfortunately, this issue skews to the extreme. One moment the art is fantastic, the next it degrades into something horrific.

Let's get the bad overwith first. A fan once told me that when he looked at some artwork in Dreamwave's books, the Transformers look like one marshmellow was stacked on top of another (then another). Well, you only need to turn to page one to see a perfect example of this: Shockwave. From the get go, the Decepticon leader is puffy and his proportions all exaggerated in the wrong ways. His chest is sunken in more than it should be (Shockwave's chest sticks out a bit over his waist) while parts like his hands and thighs are made so thick and squat, they look like they belong to an overweight middle aged human, not a robot.

Another thing which really stuck out in this issue was the last page. Now, I am perfectly willing to admit this may have been a computer error/glitch of some sort - but when you see Skystalker and Skyhopper in the final panel, they both look "squashed". Skystalker's all warped as if he's oozing downward, and Skyhopper's face is doing the same. It's a bit comedic but scary all at the same time. I really, really do suspect this was some type of computer error since I can't see anyone drawing something like that on purpose.

My last comment on the criticism soapbox is more about a choice in design than anything else, so this is completely subjective. Like last issue's criticism of Groundshaker's redesign, I'm not very fond of Skyhopper's here. He's drawn as this big, brawny guy when his alt mode is a jet. Okay, I can deal with that. But why are his wings hanging off his back looking more like two ramps? It just looks odd. Having his wings in back would give him a nice, sweeping/sleek appearance. As he is, they just look silly. Very strange.

So what's good? Most of the issue believe it or not. Despite my complaining, a lot has improved art-wise. In particular, Countdown is drawn consistantly well in this issue. No more odd head proportions. All the Micromasters look good, with a good blend of detail and proportions (given the puffy look). Also, I like the way Venom's team (whom I'm deliberately not calling the "Deluxe Insecticons" since that's not who they are yet) look really good.

Final Thoughts:
This issue is an improvement in many ways, but being the penultimate issue, I had hoped the artwork would improve more. The storyline definitely kicks up a notch, and I am interested to see how this ends.